In case you missed the first post yesterday and don't know what this is, read this. Got it? Good.
Today, we look at Eli Manning's final season in Oxford versus the team that started the season ranked as high as No. 9 and ended up going 9-4 with several strong wins but some crushing losses.
These teams both had tremendous promise. One took advantage of it (at least somewhat) while the other couldn't quite capitalize on the opportunities they had. Still, both teams ended up in the Cotton Bowl, and the teams finished just one win apart in terms of overall record.
The 2003 team featured Eli Manning, who finished third in Heisman voting. Eli threw for 3,600 yards (on the dot) and tossed 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. His leading receiver, by a large margin, was Chris Collins who caught 77 balls. Bill Flowers, Mike Espy, Kerry Johnson, and Taye Biddle all contributed a good bit as well. Tremaine Turner was the leading rusher, averaging 4.7 yards per carry with 809 total yards. Vashon Pearson and Goldie McClendon backed him up and were fine. The offensive line was full of players who were quite good, though several later proved to be products of Matt Luke's coaching and Manning's overall elevation of the offense.
The team had defensive struggles, particularly with a secondary that allowed 7.9 yards per pass. Its top two tacklers were safeties in Eric Oliver and Travis Blanchard. Cornerback Von Hutchins was fourth in tackles. For those of you not paying attention, it's bad when your secondary (particularly outside corners) make up most of your top four tacklers.
The 2009 team featured much of the 2008 team who finished the year so strongly. Unfortunately, the 2009 team did not include Mike Wallace, Michael Oher, or Peria Jerry. The team was still very good, but it just wasn't the same. Had they not moved Dexter McCluster to running back, I'm not sure they would have won more than seven games.
However, they did still have a lot of good players. The defense was fantastic, with a secondary that made receivers pay. Kendrick Lewis and Jamarca Sanford were enforcers, and Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn did an admirable job limiting big plays from outside receivers. The pass rush was strong, and linebackers were sound.
The problem was the offense. The offensive line had trouble with smaller defensive linemen, and they gave up too much pressure. Jevan Snead eventually got to the point where he was terrified of being sacked, and it really cost him.
Also, this team was coached by Houston Nutt.
So what do you think? Which team was better?